10 greatest moments in Matt Ryan’s career

Former Falcons quarterback will join team’s Ring of Honor in October

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, arguably the greatest player and quarterback in franchise history, is set to be enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor on Oct. 3 during the Week 5 game against the Bucs, a prime-time Thursday night game.

Former Falcons coach Mike Smith believes that Ryan was the best and the greatest Falcon of all time.

With the Falcons trying to rebound from Michael Vick going to federal prison and Bobby Petrino walking out on his team, Ryan was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft out of Boston College.

He spent 14 seasons with the Falcons and led the Falcons to the postseason six times, including two NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Ryan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after getting traded to the Colts in 2022. “I’m so thankful to (team owner) Arthur Blank and the entire organization for the support that they provided me during that time and the chance that they took on me in 2008. You enjoy the highs, the lows, the work we put in.”

Ryan rewrote the franchise record books along the way, setting marks for career passing yards (59,735), attempts (8,003), completions (5,242), passing touchdowns (367), passer rating (94.6), completion percentage (65.5) and 300-yard games (73).

Ryan was clutch, tough and had a penchant for pulling out victories from the jaws of defeat. He led the Falcons on 38 fourth-quarter comebacks and took them on 46 game-winning drives as he posted a 120-102 (.541) regular-season mark. He was 4-6 in the playoffs.

“With him at quarterback I felt like we had a chance to win every time we took the field,” former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Before the game and during the game, regardless of what the score was in the game, I never thought we couldn’t win the game with Matt Ryan. I mean that’s unique.”

Former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski may have thrown a prettier deep ball, and Vick was a more dynamic runner, but Ryan won more games and went to the playoffs more often.

In short, he was a winner and became the first player in team history to be selected as NFL MVP in 2016.

Here’s a look at 10 of Ryan’s greatest moments with the Falcons:

1. Winning MVP: After the 2016 season, Ryan became the first Falcon to win the MVP award.

He posted career and franchise highs of 4,944 passing yards with 38 touchdowns while completing 69.9% of his passes.

The Falcons scored 540 points, which was tied with the 2000 Rams for the seventh-most scored in a single season.

2. NFC champions: Back in the NFC Championship game for the second time, Ryan was not going to be denied. He led the Falcons to a 44-21 trashing of the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 22, 2017, in the last game in the Georgia Dome.

He competed 17 of 23 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns to become the second quarterback in franchise history to guide the team to the Super Bowl.

3. 11 seconds: Ryan served noticed in the sixth game of his career that he was going to be a winner.

Things were looking bleak after Chicago’s Kyle Orton tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rashied Davis to tie the score 19-19. Robbie Gould’s extra point put the Bears up 20-19 with 17 seconds to play.

The Bears made a strategic error on the kickoff. They kicked it short to the Falcons’ 34. Harry Douglas returned the ball 10 yards to the 44 with only 11 seconds on the clock.

From the shotgun, Ryan dropped back and found wide receiver Michael Jenkins on a bench route to the sideline for 26 yards. He was pushed out of bounds to stop the clock with six seconds left.

The catch was challenged and upheld by the replay assistant. It was first down-and-10 from Chicago’s 30-yard line.

Kicker Matt Bryant trotted onto the field and made a 48-yard field goal for a 22-20 win.

4. Get the (expletive) off my field: After Bryant made a 40-yard field goal to lift the Falcons to a 30-28 win over the Panthers on Sept. 9, 2012, the normally placid Ryan was seen on national television telling the Panthers to “Get the (expletive) off my field.”

5. First pass: After two rushes by running back Michael Turner, Ryan tossed a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins on his first pass in the NFL.

It was a skinny post against Cover 4 zone coverage.

The Falcons would go on to beat the Lions, 34-21, on Sept. 7, 2008 at the Georgia Dome.

“I remember like it was yesterday,” Smith said. “He threw a post route to Michael Jenkins for a touchdown, 62 yards against the Detroit Lions. I can remember telling Mike Mularkey when they lined up and we saw the coverage that there were in, I said, ‘This is going to be good a one, isn’t it?’ He said, ‘Yep!’ It was a skinny post against Cover 4.”

6. Toughness: In 2009 season, Ryan was knocked out of the game against Tampa Bay with a gruesome turf-toe injury Nov. 29. Chris Redman started the next two games, and the Falcons dropped to 6-7 on the season.

Ryan, playing with a steel plate in his shoe, came back to direct wins over the Jets, Bills and Bucs to help the franchise post its first back-to-back winning seasons.

Ryan would not miss another game until the eighth game of the 2019 season. He left the seventh game of the season against the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. He missed the next game against Seattle.

7. First playoff win: After three losses in the postseason to the Cardinals, Packers and Giants, Ryan led the Falcons to a 30-28 win over Seattle on Jan. 13, 2013 to reach the NFC Championship game for the third time in franchise history.

The Seahawks took a 28-27 lead on a Marshawn Lynch 2-yard touchdown. After the kickoff, the Falcons had the ball at their 28-yard line with 25 seconds to play.

Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a 22-yard gain to move the ball to the 50-yard line. After a timeout, he found tight end Tony Gonzalez in the middle of the field for a 19-yard gain. The Falcons called their third and final timeout with 13 seconds left. Seattle tried to ice Bryant with their third timeout.

Smith had a 35-yard line rule for Bryant, so they were well within his range. Bryant made a 49-yard field goal with three seconds left to play. Julio Jones secured the victory by intercepting Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary pass.

8. Back to the playoffs: After winning the MVP award and going to the Super Bowl, Ryan may have done is best work the following season as the team had to fight through the psychological valley of blowing the title after leading 28-3.

In the regular-season finale, with the rushing attack stymied, Ryan passed for 317 yards to set up five Bryant field goals in a 22-10 win over the Panthers on Dec. 31, 2017 to clinch a playoff berth.

9. 503 yards passing: During the 2016 season, Ryan passed for a career-high 503 yards in a 48-33 win over the Panthers on Oct. 2 to improve to 3-1.

Ryan completed 12 of 15 passes to Julio Jones for 300 yards. He completed 28 of 37 overall and finished with a passer rating of 142.

Ryan had six games with more than 400 yards passing.

10. Torching the Bucs: On Sept. 9, 2014, Ryan completed 21 of 24 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-14 torching of the Bucs in a Thursday night game at the Georgia Dome.

His passer rating of 155.9 was the highest of his career.

11 reasons Matt Ryan is a lock for NFL MVP

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